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EDITORIAL – City manager deserves medal for debunking the 2% fallacy

Kelowna City manager Ron Mattiussi. (Castanet image)

Kelowna City manager Ron Mattiussi. (Castanet image)

SURELY, VERY FEW people feel as passionately about their community as Kelowna City manager Ron Mattiussi. As he defended his staff’s proposal for a tax increase of 4.4 per cent on Thursday, he broke down and wept.

That’s right. In mid-sentence, he suddenly stopped, attempted to regain his composure, and managed to carry on.

Knowing City council would strive for what has become a traditional two-per-cent increase, he reviewed the results of past two-per-cent budgets.

A water system “that people in Kazakhstan would laugh at.” Sidewalks that haven’t been built. Sewers, bike paths and roads that have been postponed. So, Kelowna is now “playing catchup.”

Mattiussi begged councillors not to listen to the voodoo economics of those who perpetually demand that public works be cancelled or postponed, and services cut, to keep budget increases to a minimum. He, himself, ignores them, he said.

“What I do listen to is this council, I listen to the public, and to echo your words, we’re trying to build a great city, and that takes money. Some years it takes more than two per cent. Sometimes, it’s less. It takes what it takes, and it takes the kind of city you want built, not the two or three critics.”

The man should get a medal. He has said what City bureaucrats everywhere would like to say but feel they must fall in with the two-per-cent syndrome, the belief that two per cent is the price point beyond which taxpayers will punish mayors and councils.

Two per cent has become a sacred ceiling. It has also become the floor, for City councils have convinced themselves that budgeting consists of taking last year’s number and adding two per cent. Taxpayers have come to expect it, and reluctantly accept it, neglecting or maybe despairing of trying to calculate the compounding effect of all those two per cents.

Meanwhile, with all the years in which two is not enough, infrastructure and services fall behind.

Budgeting for a city is supposed to be about living within your means, yes, but also about making sure there’s enough money to get the job done. As Kelowna’s City manager says, some years it takes more than two per cent, sometimes less.

(Sometimes, frankly, the number should be zero, or even minus. At other times, 4.4 per cent, or five, or six.)

As Mattiussi said, “I will never apologize for that.”

And what did the council do after hearing him out? It went to work cutting his proposed budget, quickly finding $460,000 earmarked for fire protection that it put off until next year, rejecting a request for extra police, and taking $350,000 out of the parks budget.

And still, the provisional budget now sits at just under 4 per cent. City councillors will, no doubt, lose sleep over that, but Mattiussi can sleep soundly knowing he said what needed to be said.

mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca

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About Mel Rothenburger (5132 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – City manager deserves medal for debunking the 2% fallacy

  1. There are so many instances of wastefulness and pointless projects paid by the taxpayers…the medal should go to the manager that hopefully one day puts a stop to the
    madness. I could take the time to show you around but are you “open” to the idea?

    • – Madness! Hmmm, yes, well, I could get us a golf cart and the three of us could drive around and look at all of these projects…

      Besides this, there are bigger things to do: I propose that the municipality (the City of Kamloops) start on its biggest project it has ever have come upon…. Right before its eyes: To -none other- Save Kamloops Lake, so that it can become and entire recreational icon for the localized area, whereby the ol’ Tranquille location can hatch a magnificent resort complex in tune with the local airport available ‘just down the street!’ and then the Provincial coffers will then take notice (not only in the fact that the Lake is in regional, provincial jurisdiction), and grant a huge secondary grant to the TRU to build an agricultural facility within the area alongside of the new Tranquille Desert Resort Estates. Infrastructure would offset the waste water to be piped over the South Thompson to a new facility expunging all the necessary requirements for treatment for water to be put back into the lake itself.

      The primary logic herein, being, That it is a beautiful lake with a beautiful -summer, especially, setting- and has the amenities of getting people to it from the airways around the world and would enhance Tobiano, plus: all the regional affiliates could share in the profits from consumer market of goods from the TRU growing season; the lake would provide perfect watercraft recreation and a historical setting/backdrop from native cultural tours on the lake; with swimming; hiking and activities for young people at the beach; noted is just up the way an estuary for bird watchers and those fond of habitats…(a paddle-wheeler might even be involved)…!

      We needn’t see Kelowna’s plight, because our lake is different: its banks are still quite unclustered by development and could be shared by all as a pristine setting, one could travel down to the mouth at Savona and go to one of the newly opened restaurants…opened because the vision of Kamloops went beyond mere resource…level.

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